‘ARTHUR FOWLER, & JARMIN APPLE DOES THE CHRISTMAS BLUES’, December 1986

Let’s get straight to the point, this is probably the most difficult blog I’ll ever write, but it is a necessary part of dealing with what happened during this stage of my life.  Over the previous blogs there’s been a common theme of the social isolation I was experiencing during my three years at Winchester (or Peter Symonds to give it its proper name) Sixth Form College.

A brief recap, I’d decided to move from the safe environment of ‘special needs’ back to mainstream education in 1984.  Due to my lack of confidence to ask my fellow students if they minded me tagging along to the pub, my social life was restricted to going back to my comfort zone, i.e. revisiting my previous school for weekends such as school discos and reunions.  I even dated an ex after we got close at my eighteenth birthday party.  This event involved a minibus of my old school mates descending on my parent’s house in Winchester.  Anyway, this relationship broke up in May 1986 due to the distance between us (I’m sure there’s a song title in there) and a lack of trust on my part.  Drinking the equivalent of five pints in an hour and throwing up in the school foyer straight after the break up probably wasn’t the best thing I’ve done in my life.

Christmas as a kid, like for most, was full of excitement about what Santa had put in my stocking.  I often woke my parents in the early hours of the morning, only to be angrily told to go straight back to bed and not to disturb them until it got light.  It probably didn’t help that ‘Santa’ had had one or two too many whiskeys on his rounds!  However, as regular followers of my Facebook rants will know, this time of year has not been my favourite over the years.  This stems back to the Christmas and New Year of 1986, when I was at my most depressed.

Depression is something that creeps up on you and before you know it there’s a hole so deep it’s impossible to get out.  This moment came to me on 30th December 1986 whilst I was delivering the local rag, ‘The Winchester Extra’.  For the previous year I had been getting into the newly started BBC soap opera ‘Eastenders’.   On reflection, probably not the best programme to watch in my frame of mind at the time.  One of the major storylines was around Arthur Fowler’s unemployment.  He became more and more desperate to raise money for Michelle, his daughter’s, shotgun wedding to ‘Lofty’; something to do with her getting all cosy with ‘Dirty Den’ when she was still at school.  Anyway, Arthur decided to use the ‘Christmas club’ money, given to him in good faith for safekeeping, to fund this wedding.  He faked a burglary to cover up his crime but the guilt became too great.  The Christmas 1986 double episode is most famous for ‘Dirty Den’ serving Angie, his missus, divorce proceedings after he found out she had been faking a life threatening illness to get him to stay with her.  This was the ‘Duff Duff’ for the first of the two-part episode.  The second part ‘Duff Duff’ was Arthur sitting all alone at home ‘losing it’, basically trashing the place.

This particular Christmas my Dad had borrowed a VCR from the school he was teaching at.  I’m not sure why, probably because of our Christmas tea, we didn’t watch Eastenders ‘live’ and recorded the omnibus, all the week’s episodes rolled into one programme.  I always used to be the last one to go to bed, channel hopping for any naked female flesh, being the perv that I am!  Anyway, in the early hours of 30th December, I had the bright idea of watching the Eastenders’ Omnibus on my lonesome.  The next afternoon I was doing my weekly paper round.  I didn’t have a Walkman to plug into, so the two hours or so it took me to do this job I was left alone with my thoughts.  As I drudged around the mean streets of Winchester, I became bleaker and bleaker in my thoughts.  I’d always considered myself a positive thinker, able to see forward no matter what the situation was.  However, on this day, I had lost this ability and became really scared and paranoid.

When I got home my Mum was just serving up tea.  I’ve always had fixations about insignificant things that pissed me off, on a totally way-out scale.  Now, I can rationalise and laugh at myself, but in my childhood and early adulthood these became a real issue for me.  My Mum was using a Spaghetti spoon and for some unknown reason this became one of my obsessions, I hated her using this utensil.  Because of the state of mind I was in I lost it and was told to go straight to my room.  I remember curling up in a ball and breaking down.  I’m not quite sure how long after; my Dad came up and tried to get to the bottom of what was troubling me.  For the first time I gave in and told him about the feelings of social isolation I was experiencing.  I felt an intense sense of failure that I had to admit these feelings.

During the following months things slowly improved for me, which I shall be discussing in my next blog.  What I learned from this dark experience was that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.  Yes, I’ve been through similar situations since and lost the focus of my life.  However, I think subconsciously, there’s always been something inside me that never lets me give up.  Up until 2009, I’d always found Christmas a difficult time to deal with.  All around there are adverts of happy middle class families enjoying Christmas with the exciting products branded to line the pockets of the rich. This is fine if you fit into this perfect scenario, but millions of us don’t.  For twenty-three years I was single, these images reinforced my loneliness.  In November 2009 I met the love of my life, when I was in similar circumstances as I’d been in in 1986.  For the last ten years I have been able to deal with this time of year in a much more positive way, not getting hung up on the fake commercialism of it all.  Thank you Thelma for putting a big smile on my face! x

COMING UP IN NEXT MONTH’S BLOG, I experience the ‘Summer of 87’ love.

Jarmin Apple, December 2019

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